Aurora Chasers

Growing up in tornado alley, I was always enchanted by thunderstorms. Much to my mother’s dismay, I would run outside and watch the sky at the first rumble of thunder. When the tornado warning sirens wailed, she drug me inside. I would run around, collecting pets and precious stuffed animals to take into the safe area, a closet, while she tuned the radio and checked the flashlight batteries.For a certain number of years, we’d crack windows to avoid them busting. Once meteorologists dispelled that myth, that was no longer part of our tornado-preparedness routine. I would hold my pets close (also to their dismay– cuddling, if it occurred, had to be their idea) and wait for the all-clear call over the radio. Then we’d inspect the damage, call relatives, and watch the news to find out where it had hit and what the damage was.

The amount of time it took me to tear myself away from the clouds directly correlates with my age. The older I became, the harder it was to coax me inside. My poor sister even once hollered out a window, “What are you doing? You’re going to get struck by lightening! Get inside!” as clouds swirled over me and I stood, transfixed, in the center of the yard. My reply was that I wasn’t wearing any metal, because clearly lightening only strikes metal. (This is false. I also realized about two minutes later that my bra had under-wire in it, and wire is, in fact, metal.) Thankfully, I did not get hit by lightening.  With as many times as I’ve stood in open areas, eyes turned upward as wind and leaves swirl around, it is truly miraculous I’ve never been injured or struck by lightening.

I loved weather and it was a bit of an obsession. I loved watching the Weather Channel (not the boring bits that just say the temperature; the exciting storm chasing shows.), loved reading about tornadoes, anxiously awaited for storms to see if I could spot the funnel cloud, and boy did I flip with excitement over the film Twister. From the time I learned that storm chasing was a real job, I knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. And model. And act, of course. And write, and win an Olympic medal in gymnastics. What can I say? I’ve always had a lot of interests.

Moving here, there, and everywhere put a kink in my storm chasing dreams. Moving to Indiana reduced the number of  tornado producing storms. Then I moved to Florida, and my hurricane knowledge increased while the tornado watches decreased. As a sidebar, I know how terrible tornadoes are. I know they cause destruction and death and, let’s face it, are generally just terrible. I love thunderstorms and tornadoes fascinate me. But I can’t love tornadoes because of their destruction. I find them interesting, I like knowing how they work and as a storm chaser, I would have helped alert people to the dangers and my goal would have been to find more early warning signs to prevent as much death as possible.

What I didn’t realize when I chose to move to Alaska is that there are very, very few thunderstorms in Alaska. Like, one a year few. If you’re lucky, there’s five minutes of rumbling with three lightening flashes every year. If you’re lucky. Which leaves me feeling especially nostalgic and miss living in places where the horizon meets in a blurred line of blue sky and gold prairie grass.

Since I can’t track and chase storms in Alaska (because I am NOT chasing blizzards; are you crazy? It’s COLD, and icy, and just terrible. No. Blizzards are not a storm system I want anything to do with. Give me crazy winds, rain and hail any day), I’ve channeled all my storm-chasing-wanna-be-ness into Aurora Borealis chasing. The Aurora Borealis has many names, including the Northern Lights. Bright colors fly through the night sky, looking all cool and awesome and whatnot. They often look like this:

I would love to give a photo credit here, but found this photo in our downloads folder on our computer and have no idea where it came from. If you know, please tell me so I can give credit where credit is due. Thanks!

The Aurora are visible in Alaska between October and March each year. Last winter, we went chasing  them a few times with no luck. Then we saw them, very lightly, from our driveway one night. It was really just a green tint. Which is really interesting, because there’s a green flash in Florida and the sky in Oklahoma gets a green tint before a really big storm. Something cool will happen if the sky goes green; just wait for it.

Last week, the week of the Iditard (best race on Earth!), a major solar activity occurred which produced the biggest Auroral display of the past 5 years. Last Thursday and Friday night were supposed to be especially awesome, so we prepared. J was off Saturday, so Friday night we headed up a mountain with some friends. Because the closer you are to the sky, the more amazing the show is. And the further from city lights. So up the mountain we went.

We got to Hatcher Pass recreational area around 11 and made it to the top, stopping a few times to check the sky, by 11:30/11:45. The Aurora is usually best seen between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. The moon was bright and the clouds appeared to be receding; we were hopeful that this time our efforts wouldn’t be for naught. We waited. And waited. It got colder…and darker. What doesn’t make sense there? Why would the sky darken between 11 and midnight? Because the moon was slowly being covered with clouds. Which means the sky was being covered with clouds. Which means that our group, as well as the other ten plus cars up at the top, were officially out of luck. If it’s overcast, the aurora isn’t visible. The biggest Auroral event in five years, and we missed it due to cloud cover.

Curse you, beloved clouds. Curse you.

On the bright side, more major activity is forecast for this week. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have pictures better than this one, from last week:

(That’s the clouds covering the full moon).

What else have I been up to? Well, I baked this:

This is Olive Garden’s Black Tie Mousse Cake, as made by yours truly. I have to tweak the recipe a little before I do it next, which will probably be a very long time from now. It’s four layers of decadence. That means that it’s ridiculously bad for you. If I made this more than once a year, I would have a heart attack before 30. However, James has said he wants this instead of birthday cake every year from here on out. This took a FULL day to make.

Paw Prints in the Sink has Twitter-pated (ahem, had to have a Bambi pub, sorry). I’m officially on Twitter and Pinterest under the name PawPrintsInSink. Once I have stuff up, I’ll link to it from here. Look for Hercules‘ post later this week 🙂


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